Navigating Holidays While Co-Parenting or With a Blended Family
The holidays are stressful for just about everyone. But when you’re working with a co-parent or a blended family during the holiday season, it can add a new layer of stress to the equation.
When bringing two families together or splitting a holiday between two parents, it can be difficult for everyone involved to navigate.
We sat down with Dr. Erika Stapert from Manhattan Psychology Group to talk about how parents can make the holiday season as easy as possible for kids when working with co-parents or a blended family.
How can co-parents work together to create an approach to the holiday season? What does a “fair” approach look like?
The most important thing in working together to create an approach to the holiday season is to really try to put aside your own preferences and put your children’s needs first.
This means limiting the number of transitions that take place and allowing your children to “settle in” a bit at each parent’s home instead of bouncing around.
Co-parents can work together to divide the time in an equitable way – for example one holiday with one parent and another with the other – and if one parent is feeling disappointed about “missing” a certain holiday with their children, they can hold that holiday celebration on a different day.
Be flexible with timing remembering that the memories are what’s most important, not the specific day that they’re made on.
Holidays with divorced parents can be difficult, especially if it’s the first holiday season where the parents aren’t together. How can parents navigate this new set up, especially if there’s young children in the equation, and make the transition as smooth as possible?
When explaining new arrangements to young children, it’s important that co-parents stress the fact that they both love and want to spend time with them over the holidays, even though these celebrations will now be done separately.
During your conversation, focus on those traditions that will remain the same and then briefly explain the differences.
Young children also thrive on consistency and a set routine in place so limiting the number of transitions between households will be important. They need time to “settle in” to one home so one parent might need to “give up” some additional time in order to achieve this.
When kids become old enough to decide how they want to spend their holidays, this can lead to conflict, feelings of guilt, fear of disappointing a parent, etc. How can co-parents help their children navigate this?
Although it’s okay to feel disappointed by your children’s decisions, supporting them around how they spend their holidays is what’s most important.
Validating statements such as, “I know how hard it must be for you to decide where to spend the holidays, and I am fine with whatever you decide” can go a long way in supporting your children as they navigate this difficult situation.
If celebrating a particular holiday with your children is important to you, give them a lot of options of when you can celebrate together to avoid their feeling as though they need to spend equal time at each household on a given day.
There are some instances where one co-parent is in a better financial position than the other, which can lead to what can almost be described as competition when it comes to giving gifts. How can co-parents navigate this and avoid conflict?
If co-parents are open to it, discussing a set monetary limit or number of gifts that each parent gives can help avoid any feelings of competition.
It’s also important to remember though that the best way to show your children that you love them is by spending quality time with them and making memories.
So even if one parent gives more than the other, what will be remembered most by the children is the time that their parents spent with them and the things they did together.
When it comes to blended families, there might be different traditions coming together (i.e. one family might believe in Santa while the other doesn’t, one family might not celebrate a holiday at all). How can parents and families find compromise? Are there ways to make new traditions within this new, blended family?
With blended families, it’s important that each individual family’s traditions and beliefs are respected and celebrated.
Although one family might not celebrate a particular holiday that the other does celebrate, they can still be supportive of this by taking a stance of learning about the holiday from the other family and participating in it where appropriate.
This holds true for differing belief systems as well. Although each family does not need to take on the beliefs of the other, they can still be supportive of it by asking questions and respecting the practice of those beliefs.